Ron Kobayashi (piano, keyboards); Baba Elefante (electric and acoustic bass); Steve Dixon (drums and percussion).
CITIES OF ORIGIN:
San Bernardino, Upland, Orange.
Of Standards, Be-Bop and Swing (Carpet Cat Records, 2008).
Influences include jazz greats like Oscar Peterson, Thelonious Monk, Medeski Martin and Wood, Charlie Parker, Ray Brown, Charles Mingus, Roy Haynes, Jaco Pastorious, Art Blakey, Thelonious Monk, Miles, plus non-jazzers The Beatles, James Brown and The Meters. And there’s even the non-musical influence of Muhammad Ali and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The “seven-year itch” is generally understood as the length of time in which some of those who are in committed relationships—largely marriages—start to look elsewhere and begin to re-evaluate the past seven years they’ve just spent with their significant other. And while this “itch” sometimes leads to the dissolution of relationships, most bands barely last that long as well, with many throwing in the towel five or less years into the game.
However, the Ron Kobayashi Trio certainly know how to maintain a musical commitment, as the three jazz/rock musicians have kept their act together for more than 15 years.
According to Kobayashi, they’ve played numerous jazz festivals and clubs across the region, recorded four CDs and one DVD, received airplay throughout North America and were even the house band for the annual Hollywood Diversity Awards. More recently, the Trio’s landed tracks in a movie starring Gary Busey. Plus, they’re hoping to record with legendary jazz cellist Fred Katz later this year. Look, sticking together certainly has its rewards.
Such a span has also found the Trio morphing from its initial musical direction.
“It’s interesting because we started as a typical jazz trio playing standards and bebop,” says bassist Baba Elefante. “But soon we realized how much fun it was to bring in influences that we grew up with such as funk, rock [and] fusion, but keeping the improvisational elements started with jazz. On any given night we might play pieces from Louis Armstrong to Led Zeppelin.”
With a set list comprising half originals and half standards (“We love doing both,” says drummer Steve Dixon), these multi-genre greats have performed quite regularly throughout the Inland Empire. However, Elefante notes that such opportunities are decreasing.
“If club and restaurant patrons would request or demand live music, club and restaurant owners would supply the demand,” he says. “That’s why places like Mario’s are great to play. They are so supportive of live music.”
“The owners seem to really respect musicians,” adds Kobayashi, of Mario’s. “They allow us to play freely there with very little restrictions on performance—a rarity today.”
Sticking around for well over a dozen years? That’s another rarity.
The Ron Kobayashi Trio at Mario’s Place, 3646 Mission Inn Ave., Riverside, (951) 684-7755; www.mariosplace.com. Fri, Aug. 13. 10PM.